Words by Lourdes Walsh
It’s soon to be Father’s Day. A Sunday of backyard barbecues and slogan-ed socks, Lynx sets and engraved beer glasses — “World’s Number 1 Dad.”
My son hasn’t ever really asked about his father. That genetic contributor of height and eye colour. The patron of long limbs that have my eight-year-old to the centre of my chest and those eyes of cocoa that stare, unflinching, even in the harshest of lights into my own glassy ocular.
It’s been he and I since the beginning. From the moment of his conception he was mine, all mine. And I have revelled in every second. Every boundary, every bedtime and bath time. Every fever and food fad, his first step, first tooth, first football match. I negotiated, navigated, celebrated them all on my own.
I didn’t choose to be a single mother, more that the life chose me. My own mother was a single mother, I was raised in my power; a feminist before knowing how loaded that word would be.
It didn’t fill me with dread or desire. I didn’t yearn for a 3am tap-out or a lie-in or someone to “take over”. What I did wish for was to have someone to stand with by the swings, to share successes of first words and swimming strokes.
It often felt that despite knowing motherhood, my version of mother, this best version of myself; no-one else could acknowledge it.
I ticked every box of the baby bounce lurgy. Young — check. Low economic status — check. Single -no — not single. Alone—check.
When divulging stories of breakdown and heartache and picket fences engulfed in flames, there’s a strange mask that one dons. It’s in a slight convex of the shoulders, a cock of the head, the downturn bow of an initial smile.
In this dawn of sisterhood, when women are increasingly, loudly and jubilantly celebrated for their decisions does my shirking of wife and girlfriend and partner make my determination less? Doing it alone, does my ability diminish? Does my validity as a mother lessen when you see me grocery shopping for one and a half?
The answer is in the coffee shop hangouts you’re not invited to, the dinner party delights you’re not privy to and the play date texts unanswered.
I wonder had my motherhood origin began in a test tube or with a turkey baster or with a ticking biological clock, would that be acceptable. If I had a corporate job and flexible working and a French au pair and linen trousers — would I be empowered then?
The double standards of mothers and fathers are wide, between single mothers and fathers — a crevasse. A single father is hailed, martyred. A single mother — a loaded statistic.
As Father’s Day approaches, I celebrate all those fathers and men present in lives; teaching and guiding and influencing. But I also celebrate the band of women playing both roles, raising children and figuring it out as they go it alone.